NAC, Mayfair

It was the delectable photos I spied on Instagram that first alerted me to NAC. North Audley Cantine, as it is more formally known is moments from Oxford Street, a French style bistro with delicious food, an enjoyable ambience and a trendy new cocktail bar downstairs. The restaurant was founded in 2013 by the insightful and enthusiastic young Frenchmen David Bellaiche and two childhood friends, Gabriel Cohen-Elia and Jeremy Coste.

The menu is a cunning collection of simple but innovative dishes, served bistro-style in petite portions on pretty plates. Intrigue led me to choose the entire cauliflower, roasted and torched, seasoned with just sea salt and olive oil. Concealed in a baking paper case, I unwrapped it to discover a wonderfully soft and flavoursome charred vegetable. We also sampled the Squid Carbonara with egg yolk, bacon and chives. This unusual invention creates a super thin spaghetti with shredded squid topped with a creamy yellow yolk and salty bacon. It is an acquired taste and texture but no one can deny this is a clever take on the Italian classic.

Main courses use big flavours but are prepared in a refined way. I tried the Grilled Free-range Chicken with Cajun spices which had a freshness that reminded me of the Provencal markets I am so fond of. Dry-aged Scottish Hanger Steak with pepper sauce was tasty too, though the meat was slightly chewy. We enjoyed the creamy spicy pepper sauce for chip dunking.

I was like a child in a sweetshop when it came to choosing desserts: overexcited and indecisive. Our quiet but kind waiter surprised us with a selection of three, the very same trio I had been debating about. A thoughtful but fattening gesture!  This is the section in which NAC really excel. The pastry skills in the kitchen were illustrated in the three plates in front of us: exquisite churros with chocolate sauce and popping candy, French toast with berries and Salted Caramel Profiteroles with ice-cream. It was a luxurious display of sweet treats, and we loved every mouthful.

A cursive neon red sign notifies guests of the ‘Chez Chow’ cocktail den downstairs. A lavish and opulent room, with dimmed warm lighting and comfortable velvet armchairs, it would be easy to while away a whole evening here. I highly recommend the Popcorn Sazerac, a smoky bourbon based drink with a buttery nutty hint. It was one of my favourite cocktails I have tried in a while.

A hidden haven for bistro food and delightful cocktails, I don’t know how this place stayed unknown to me for so long… the perfect pit-stop after a Selfridges spree.

More information and book a table here: